A second Qatar Airways passenger flight has arrived in Kabul

It's unclear if passengers will be allowed to depart on the flight
Originally Published: 10 SEP 21 06:58 ET
Updated: 10 SEP 21 08:03 ET

(CNN) — A second Qatar Airways passenger flight arrived in Kabul airport on Friday, Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Arabic television showed.

After landing on the tarmac, aid was seen being unloaded from the plane. It is unclear at this stage if passengers will be allowed to depart on the same flight.

On Thursday, the first international passenger flight to take off from Afghanistan since the chaotic US military airlift last month landed in Qatar, carrying more than 100 foreign nationals, including Americans.

Passengers on board Thursday’s chartered Qatar Airways flight that departed from Kabul airport — including Canadian, Ukrainian, German, British and US citizens — were among some 200 foreigners that the Taliban have cleared to leave the country, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The plane’s departure was the first signal that at least some foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan will be able to, following weeks of uncertainty. Civilians have been left scrambling to find safe passage from the country since the Taliban takeover in mid-August threw a US-led evacuation effort into confusion.

Thursday’s flight happened after Qatar worked with parties on the ground to transport the passengers in a Qatari convoy and secure a safe passage to Kabul’s airport.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Than, Qatar’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, thanked the Taliban for their “cooperation” in restarting flights, adding that this was a signal that the militant group’s “positive statements” can be “demonstrated into action.”

The cooperation was also praised by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, who said it offered “another concrete demonstration” of the administration’s commitment to help US citizens and others depart Afghanistan if they choose to do so.

The top US diplomat said the departure of the flight “was the result of the Department’s regular and close engagement with our regional partners, particularly with Qatari authorities, who facilitated [Thursday’s] flight.”

“We also have been in regular — typically daily — contact with Americans remaining in Afghanistan. We have provided them, including those aboard this flight, with specific guidance and instructions. Our message to those who remain in Afghanistan is simple: if you wish to depart Afghanistan, we will help you do so,” he said.

This comes after Blinken blamed the grounding of charter flights in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, on the Taliban, saying that the militant group was not allowing them to leave. The Taliban claimed “that some of the passengers do not have the required documentation,” Blinken said.

More flights expected

Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority is preparing for more flights to start operating from Kabul, according to an aviation source who spoke to CNN. Both major Afghan carriers Kam Air and Ariana Afghan Airlines plan to restart different routes, according to the source.

The source said that the handling company at the airport will be the same one that was used prior to the shutdown of the airport after the fall of Kabul in mid-August.

The terminal at the airport in Kabul is “ready” for flights, the aviation source told CNN. Other international flights are expected in the coming days.

The last US military planes left Kabul’s airport just ahead of an August 31 deadline, marking the full withdrawal of American forces. That landmark moment came only two weeks after the Taliban seized control of the capital. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Monday that progress on getting Kabul airport “back to normal” had been held up by the damage done to radar facilities.

In the meantime, thousands of Afghans who worked with international organizations in the country remain left behind after seeking to flee during last month’s airlift.

Many of them fear retribution from the Taliban, but Afghanistan’s new acting prime minister, Mohammad Hasan Akhund, said Wednesday that his government promises amnesty for “all those who have caused the Taliban fighters to suffer, and are responsible for the most severe types of torture and abuse.”

“No one will be able to prove that he was subjected to revenge. And in such tense circumstances, it is easy to do what you want. But the movement is disciplined and controls its gunmen,” he told Al Jazeera in an interview, adding that the Taliban “have not harmed anyone because of his previous actions.”

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